Contact Tracing Fake News: Ethnographic Analysis of Covid-19 Misinformation in Three Global Communities at Risk

Just Tech Covid-19 Rapid-Response Grant – Fall 2020

Abstract

During the Covid-19 pandemic, access to quality health information structures individual and community risk for health inequality. Increasingly, social media is functioning as a primary method by which vulnerable populations receive and share Covid-19 information—and misinformation. While many researchers have begun network analysis of the spread and correlates of Covid-19 misinformation, few have engaged in context-rich research that gets at how people appraise, make sense of, and perpetuate misinformation across social media ecologies. To address this gap, we propose a six-month-long comparative ethnographic research project in the favelas of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro Brazil, the Southside of Chicago, and the rural borderlands of northwestern Guatemala. Each context is marked by inequality, limited health-care access, and growing use of social media for information dissemination. They vary in social and environmental characteristics, and national/local public health response. We will leverage existing ethnographic networks to “contact trace” misinformation from key informants back through and beyond the community, elucidating how and why misinformation—and Covid-19 spread itself—plays out differently across global contexts.

Research Team

Principal Investigators

Nicole E. Rosner

Postdoctoral Fellow and Postdoctoral Scholar, University of Chicago

  • Bio ▾

    Nicole Rosner is a postdoctoral fellow at the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation and a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. Her research concerns the everyday politics of city-making and the violent reproduction of social, spatial, and racial inequality. Her regional interests lie in Latin America, particularly Brazil, and she has recently begun research in Latinx communities in Chicago. Her current book project, tentatively titled “Remaking the City, Unmaking Democracy,” analyzes the erosion of liberal democracy in Brazil through lived experiences of “green” urban renewal in Rio de Janeiro’s working-class communities of color. Nicole’s research has been supported by numerous grants and awards, including from the Fulbright-Hays and the Inter-American Development Foundation (IAF). She received her PhD in sociocultural anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, with a designated emphasis in global metropolitan studies, her MSc in city design and social sciences from the London School of Economics, and her AB from Harvard University with honors.

Luisa Rivera

PhD Candidate, Emory University

  • Bio ▾

    Luisa Maria Rivera, MPH, is a PhD candidate in anthropology at Emory University. Her research examines the biological embedding and intergenerational transmission of trauma, violence, and inequality in Latinx communities. She conducts mixed-methods ethnographic and biosocial research in northwestern Guatemala and urban communities in the US. Her work is supported by the National Science Foundation, the Wenner Gren Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, where she is a current health policy research scholar.

Lis Blanco

PhD Candidate, State University of Campinas

  • Bio ▾

    Lis Blanco is a PhD candidate in anthropology at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Brazil. She holds an MA in social anthropology and a BA in social sciences from UNICAMP. She was a visiting scholar at the Food Observatory at the University of Barcelona, Spain, and in the Anthropology Department at the University of California, Berkeley. Her current PhD research examines the transformation of the category of “Hunger” into “Food Insecurity” through the social trajectory of the Zero Hunger Program. As a sociocultural anthropologist focused in Latin American contexts, she is interested in the study of public policies and statecraft intertwined with the production and consolidation of social and economic inequalities. Lately, she has been working with international cooperation research projects on Covid-19’s socioeconomic consequences in poor households and on food access in vulnerable communities. She is the editor of PROA Journal of Anthropology and Art, a member of the Laboratory of Symbolic Production and Anthropology, and a member of the Brazilian Network of Researchers in Food Security and Sovereignty.

Christof Brandtner

Postdoctoral Scholar and Fellow, University of Chicago

  • Bio ▾

    Christof Brandtner is assistant professor at EM Lyon, a fellow at the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation at the University of Chicago, and a senior research fellow at the Civic Life of Cities Lab at Stanford University. As an organizational sociologist, Christof studies how practices intended to solve social and environmental problems in cities emerge, diffuse, and change. His published work examines organizational responses to institutional changes, including urban resilience to public health and climate crises and professionalism in urban civil society. He is currently completing “Cities in Action: Climate Change and the Organization of Cities” (under contract with Columbia University Press). Christof holds a PhD and MA in sociology from Stanford University.

Aline Nascimento

Doctoral Candidate, Social Anthropology, National Museum in Rio de Janeiro

  • Bio ▾

    Aline Maia Nascimento is a Black Brazilian social scientist and social justice activist. She is a doctoral candidate in social anthropology at the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro as well as the executive coordinator of the Human Rights team at the Observatório de Favelas, a social organization located in the Maré favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Her research focuses on the ways in which homicide victims' mothers organize their activism to ensure life and justice by denouncing police violence and preventing Black youth death. Using anthropological ethnographic methods, the research explores how mothers’ political participation impacts public homicide prevention policies and drives new ways of understanding society's organization, social justice, and democracy in Brazil.

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